ERRORS have been spotted in the way data, specifically the speed of play the balls, has been recorded and supplied to the Clubs, Super League and RFL this season.

This has now been corrected after being reviewed and re-analysed.

The speed of the rucks, allied with the new ball steal rule and the six again set restarts, have become a thorny issue for players, coaches and referees to grapple with this season.

In the post-match press conference after last week’s game Huddersfield boss Ian Watson raised the question of consistency in the awarding of six again restarts from ruck infringements.

Saints coach Kristian Woolf responded, pointing to the original data showing Saints to have double the number of slow play-the-balls and half the number of fast ones as their opponents in the opening rounds of Super League.

That data has since been reviewed after anomalies were spotted.

Saints still had more slow (four second plus) play the balls than their opponents in the opening five weeks of the season with the numbers being 392-249. 

Dave Rotheram, Chief On-Field Officer, said: “There will always be differences of opinion of how data is analysed, recorded and reported. Different coaches will have different philosophies on how they use data.

“Within rugby league there are thousands of data points collected in a match.

“However, during the first few weeks of the season we have noticed some anomalies in the data that we have questioned with the data supplier.

“They have conducted their own investigation and found that particularly with play the ball speed that there were some errors made.

“The whole season has been re-analysed and redistributed.”

 That data aside, this season opposition defences have sought to slow down Saints’ big ball carriers like Alex Walmsley and kick returner Tommy Makinson.

This has nullified any gains from good first carries, stymie the attack and that frustration contributed to Woolf speaking out on the issue of players flopping in after the tackle.

Supporters, too, have been raising the question of slow rucks and the awarding of set restarts via social media.

However, Rotheram, who was assistant coach at Saints under Ian Millward and Daniel Anderson, explained the complexities around the play the ball.

“The speed of it relies on so many factors, from the ball carrier, the tacklers and the referee and it is not always as clear cut as judging a forward pass or offside,” he said.

And he was very keen to stand up and support the referees and match officials.

He said: “Everyone involved at the RFL, and certainly all those involved in match officiating, need to have a pretty thick skin – there is always going to be criticism, and we know that’s part of the job.

“But I think it’s important for supporters to understand, as clubs do, the challenges of the role, and the standards we apply to ourselves.

“Every week, match officials are making hundreds of decisions under intense pressure, with enormous responsibility and public scrutiny.

“There’s a balance to be struck between enforcement of the rules and contributing to the game as a spectacle without unwarranted intervention.

“And there’s also a responsibility on players and coaches – the rules and interpretations are clearly set out in on-field policies, so match officials always have to work with players and coaches to meet those objectives.”